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The Last Man On Earth

A 1964 horror/science fiction film, which based on a novel by Richard Matheson, starring Vincent Price.

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An entertaining, well-made, but problematic apocalyptic vision.

  • Oct 31, 2011
Rating:
+3
*** out of ****

Robert Morgan (Vincent Price) gets up every morning and marks each day on his current calendar with a little "X". I presume that means to symbolize each day he has successfully lived through. Then, he checks the garlic and mirrors that are placed on his door. If he needs more; then he makes a trip to town/city in his car. He goes for a ride; but not to sightsee. He has important business. Sometimes, he needs gas, sometimes he needs more garlic and another mirror (although he only "takes what he needs; he's an honest man), and occasionally, he stops at a ditch so that he can unload bodies and watch them burn, burn, burn.

He is the last man on earth. Or so he thinks. Everyone else around him - and there are plenty of seemingly human beings to spare - is a bloodthirsty vampire forever intent on killing him. Every night is the same old routine; the vamps try to break down Robert's barricades by first evading the traditional vampire phobias (the garlic, the mirrors, and oh, what's this; even the wooden stakes). Each night, they fail to succeed; and the hero lives another day. Luckily for him, it's in the day that he can get things done. And to Robert, there's always much to do about...something.

"The Last Man On Earth" is one of the three film adaptations of Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend"; and it's most likely the best you can get when it comes down to the trio. It's a competently-crafted, well-intentioned, low-budget science fiction horror movie that isn't necessarily faithful to the source material that inspired it, but nonetheless, it can build atmosphere and tension like a pro. The film keeps building-and-building tension, eventually hoping to lead up to something, and believe me; there's a conclusion that proves my claim that it DOES indeed end somewhere, and on a satisfying note. Some might disagree, and most will have problems with the film that are difficult to overlook, but as entertainment, "The Last Man on Earth" is a mighty success. But as a narrative, eh...not so much.

I have no problem with the apocalyptic story. I am respectful and very admiring of Matheson's original novel, which served and still serves to this day as an influential work of sci-fi horror fiction, but most of the emotional impact is taken away here through some distracting dubbing and a scenery-chewing performance from Price; who is always wonderful, and does not intend to change that here. There isn't much of a point in going in-depth about how much I liked Price in his role here, because really, if I've done it once, then I've done it more than enough times. One thing that's worth mentioning might be that Price wasn't the essential choice for the character of Robert Morgan (who was called Robert Neville in the source novel). Plenty of other, slightly inferior actors could have fit the role just fine. I'm glad that Price did take on the character, but there's always the sense that here, he lacks the same unforgettable and unique sense of style or wit that he has had in his various other projects (and roles).

It may sound like I wasn't too fond of "The Last Man on Earth", and indeed, I am giving a positive review to a movie that probably doesn't deserve the kind of praise that outweighs the "bad" by a long-shot, but in reality, I did like this film. It's an excellent piece of entertainment, the production isn't as bad as it was initially thought to be (really, I've seen much worse out of today's "entertainment"). In the end, through all its imperfections and unfaithfulness, it's a quality product and I was pleased with it. You might like it too if you are affectionate of "I Am Legend", the novel, but then again, maybe you'll find even more to complain about. As a critic, it would be wrong to direct you anywhere other than down your own path. My positive rating entails that I recommend the film, and believe me, I do, but I was *this* close to giving it a slightly lower rating, but a lot of thinking soon changed that. "The Last Man on Earth" doesn't necessarily delve deep into its thematic elements, but it does create a convincing and nightmarish landscape, and slow vampires scare me more than the fast ones any day (even if the fast ones were the creation of Matheson in the book, and their pace has been changed for the film). Whether this review makes you skeptical or not; this film is worth a good look, if only out of curiosity. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

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October 31, 2011
sweet review, Ryan! I liked this one but honestly it never really held up too well after many years.
 
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More The Last Man On Earth reviews
review by . July 20, 2011
Post-apocalyptic angst galore
Of the three film adaptations of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, this is definitely my favorite. Last Man treads lightly on the social implications of Matheson's story to concentrate on heartbreaking personal themes, but there's no denying the incalculable influence that both the book and the film have asserted on filmic realizations of vampires and zombies alike.      Although the performances of the small cast are of mixed quality, Vincent Price is - as always - …
Quick Tip by . May 24, 2010
Vincent Price
Just re-watched this for the first time in many years and it's still incredible. Character-driven, eerie, & one of Vincent Price's best roles! Not only is the film a seminal horror and science fiction film, but it is also an essential film in the history of the vampire and zombie sub-genres. Of all the films based on Richard Matheson's classic novel, this is certainly the best, whether Matheson acknowledges it or not.  
review by . April 30, 2009
IT MAY BE OLD BUT ITS STILL GOT BITE
So,I AM LEGEND has finally come out, with its big name star and its big budget and its big computer generated special effects, but when the smoke and hype cleared the fact remains that THE LAST MAN ON EARTH with Vincent Price filmed back in the 1960's in black and white with no virtually no budget and no special effects at all is still the best available adaptation of Richard Matheson's classic Horror/SciFi novel. THE LAST MAN ON EARTH is the story of a single human being and his day to …
review by . May 13, 2009
I Am Legend receives the silver screen treatment in "Last man on Earth"(1964). For once Vincent Price is actually acting for once (instead of playing himself and hamming up the joint like his Corman/A.I.P. films). The black and white cinematography adds to the films eeriness. Many of the film's elements were later taken and used in Night of the living Dead (1968). I wish this film would one day get the credit it deserves. If you want a good scare and are a huge fan of post-apocalyptic films (such …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie

Wiki

An Italian movie based upon the Richard Matheson novel I am Legend.  The film was originally going to be a Hammer Films production but trouble with the censors and financial backing fell through.  Was picked up by an Italian production company
Matheson wasn't pleased with the changes made to the script and the film's low production values so he gave his screen credit the pseudonym of Logan Swanson.

One of the inspirations for Night of the Living Dead.
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Details

Director: Sidney Salkow
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi
Release Date: 1964.3.8 (USA), 1964.8.19 (Italy)
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Screen Writer: Richard Matheson
DVD Release Date: 2005
Runtime: 86 minutes
Studio: Produzioni La Regina, Associated Producers (API)
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